GULFPORT - Standing on the grounds of Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, the 125-year-old epicenter of the historic Turkey Creek community, the Rev. Ed Moses viewed construction in various stages on numerous Katrina-damaged homes and made a pronouncement:
"Turkey Creek is back," Moses said. "Turkey Creek never left."
Moses and other residents of one of the oldest communities in Gulfport - settled sometime in the 1860s by freed slaves - say they didn't harbor any doubts the community would regroup after being flooded by its namesake creek.
So far, a couple of senior citizens have passed away - some attribute this to hurricane stress - but nobody has said they're leaving. A good number of people have reinhabited their houses.
"You will not find a group more diligent in getting back into their homes," said Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines, who represents the area and is working to repair her own flooded family home there.
Rev. Moses says there have been more than 1,000 people, most from the United Methodist's disaster relief program, helping rebuild.
Moses, who has been pastor at Mt. Pleasant for six years, has had to become a construction manager and accountant, shelter operator, jack-of-all-trades and carpenter for his flock since Katrina. But this he does not mind.
Turkey Creek is a unique community that has received national attention and will be the subject of a future film by a noted California documentary maker. Efforts have been ongoing for nearly a decade to have Turkey Creek added to the national registry of historic communities.
Holmes-Hines says much of the federal red tape has been cleared, but she wishes city government would get behind the effort more enthusiastically. She said that if the community had already received the designation, residents could have been eligible for federal preservation grants to help with hurricane recovery.
What Katrina did
Most homes in Turkey Creek flooded during Katrina, and the heroism of some young men in the community who braved wind and water to save neighbors was recognized by President Bush.
Frank Hemingway of Strausburg, Colo., replaces siding on Netterine Theodore's home in Gulfport.
Deloris Barnes says that flood waters came to the top steps of her Gulfport home as she watched Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast. Volunteers coordinated through Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church are working to give her a new roof because of damage from a fallen tree.
The Sun Herald this month continues its 30 Communities in 30 Days series, which looks at how area neighborhoods are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We will update these stories every six months.